Do I Need to Hire an Attorney?

Getting solid legal advice is never a bad idea and if you have specific legal questions, then yes you should talk to an attorney. It is not required that you hire an attorney to get divorced and it is absolutely possible to craft a satisfactory settlement agreement without one.

 

Should I File for Divorce with the Court Before or After Mediation?

If you and your spouse/partner settle all or most of your issues before you file, it will make the court process go a lot smoother and quicker. It is entirely possible to have all the issues figured out, written down, and signed off on so when you do file you can include your settlement agreement in the paperwork. If everything is satisfactory to the judge then you may only need one, short hearing where the judge finalizes the divorce.

If you have already filed with the court, you can still use mediation to settle your issues before your hearing date. 

 

What if My Spouse/Partner Doesn’t Want to Mediate?

Unless  and until it is ordered by the court, mediation is a voluntary process and works best when both parties give it their best shot. If one side doesn’t want to mediate, I can’t make them and wouldn’t want to if I could because it wouldn’t work! In mediation, all the decisions are made by the parties, including whether to participate or not.

 

So, What Happens if I File for Divorce with the Court Without any Agreements Between Us?

The court will likely order you to mediation anyway. Georgia has a Domestic Relations Standing Order as to Issues of Divorce that dictates mediation in contested cases. If your issues remain unresolved, the judge will ultimately decide everything for you.

 

If We Get Ordered by the Court to Mediation, Could We Hire You at That Point?

Yes! You can hire any mediator you want or, depending on which county you filed, let the court pick one for you.

 

Wouldn’t It Just be Easier to Go Ahead and File and Let the Judge Decide Everything?

Not necessarily. Courts can be pretty unpredictable and you may end up having to go to court several times for several hours with an unknown outcome each time. If the judge does ultimately rule on all your issues, it may not be at all the outcome you were hoping for but you have to live with it.

 

Can’t We Just Split Everything Down the Middle? 50/50?

Maybe. Depending on what assets and debts you have, you may be able to split everything down the middle. Georgia is an Equitable Distribution state, which basically means the division is based on fairness. “Fair” might be 50/50 or some other make up depending on several factors. I encourage you to do some research on this aspect of divorce in Georgia. Here’s one helpful article (but there’s lots more out there): https://www.justia.com/family/divorce/docs/equitable-distribution-faq.html

 

What About the Kids?

There are many issues to discuss when it comes to the children, including parenting time, decision making, and financial support. Ideally, the plan will be centered on the best interests of the children.  Of course, separation and divorce affect children immensely but it is entirely possible to create a co-parenting plan that allows for time with both parents in a schedule that makes sense to your individual lives.

Here’s some more on this from the State of Georgia: https://georgia.gov/popular-topic/learning-about-child-custody

 

Okay, So Now What?

  • If you haven’t already, start thinking about what would be most fair in the division of marital assets and debt.
  • Think about the children and what sort of schedule with both parents would be best for them.
  •  Begin tracking regular monthly expenses and try to create a budget plan for yourself. You’ll need to file a Financial Affidavit with court and the more accurate the better. Plus, this will help you plan for expenses when you live separately. 
  • Try to picture the future as you hope it be, including the financial side of things as well as how you will co-parent (if applicable) agreeably.